Yale Elementary students face reality of CPS school closures

June 19, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The bell has not yet rung, so there's still time for the swings. There is always time at the end of the walk to school for a hug, and a kiss, and an "I love you."

There is the usual morning greeting, and the gentle reminder to pull the hoodie back, hats off in the building. Those scenes, so familiar for so many years here, will not be replayed. For this is the last day for the elementary school that shares an Ivy League name. To that, a Yale first grader has six words.

"I don't want it to close," said DaSean Birgans, Yale 1st grader.

But close it will. Most of the students from Yale will go south to another school with an Ivy league name, Harvard, where there is air conditioning, a larger enrollment and metrics that show stronger test scores. It's five blocks away, but for those of Yale heritage, it might as well be a million miles.

"It hurts. His sisters have been here, aunts and uncles, some of my siblings. It's like generation to generation. It's sad," said LaTonja Davis, DaSean's grandmother.

That may be the word that opposing parties in the school closings debate might agree on. It is "sad" when a school closes, and the future of a building that's anchored a neighborhood is unknown.

"You don't want that building to sit empty. No. No. For what. It can be used," said Diana Carr, parent.

But, for what?

"I can't describe how I feel. First school I've been in since kindergarten. I don't know how I feel," said an unnamed Yale student.

The afternoon bell comes. There are hugs and some tears.

"It's bittersweet because it's finally settled in for the students, but the teachers kept their spirits high," said Rae Webb, Yale principal.

There are a dozen and a half teachers here. Where they all wind up is unclear.

On Wednesday, they say goodbye. The hallways are empty. The year is over- the last year for Yale.

"I hope they still remember the kids in the classroom, but most likely we'll see each other again," said Jaleel Carr, Yale student.

Perhaps, perhaps not. Yale has hosted generations of students, Jennifer Hudson is among its more famous alums.

The Yale Alumni Club of Chicago has affiliated itself with the school for the last 17 years, taking students on field trips and mentoring them. It will continue its relationship with the new, combined school- which is not yet named- but will not be Harvard.

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